Sunset Special: A Review of the Manava Suite Resort Tahiti
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Aspirational travelers typically don’t spend much time on Tahiti. Rather, Tahiti is an unavoidable necessity when commuting to one’s actual destination: one of the picturesque islands or motus that have made French Polynesia famous.
That said, it’s worth soaking in as much culture as possible if you’re only spending a night in Papeete, and if you’re willing to shell out, that one night can be just as memorable as your stays on Bora Bora or Moorea.
I’ve had the pleasure of overnighting at Manava Suite Resort Tahiti on three different occasions. Most recently, I stayed here after a stint on Moorea and before an early-morning departure to Los Angeles (LAX) on Air France’s thrice-weekly Boeing 777-200 service.
This property didn’t belong to any points-earning alliances, but by booking with a Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (and using Hotels.com to begin the process), I earned 10x miles on the purchase (offer ends Jan. 31, 2020).
We’re big fans of booking nonalliance hotels via this method. In doing so, one receives 10% back on hotels booked at Hotels.com, since Capital One points are worth 1 cent apiece when redeemed for a statement credit against travel. Plus, purchases made through that portal are eligible to participate in Hotels.com Rewards when booking and paying with a Venture Rewards card.
For every 10 nights you stay, you get one free night that you can redeem at any property in the world. The free night is worth the average price of the 10 paid nights — meaning that by booking through Hotels.com, you get 10% back. So when you combine the Venture’s 10x miles at Hotels.com with the effective 10% back from Hotels.com Rewards, you’re essentially getting 20% back on hotel purchases.
The resort was a few miles south of PPT airport, making for a 12-minute taxi ride in either direction. Free shuttles were only offered between the property and downtown Papeete, which wouldn’t do you any good if you were intending to go to the airport.
The real boon was its position relative to sunset. The property backed up to the ocean, and management wisely built one of the largest, most epic infinity pools I’ve ever seen to serve as a viewing platform. There was a massive, winding ledge where you could prop your elbows up, don a pair of Ray-Bans and soak in a magical sunset. The sun settled down just beside neighboring Moorea, showering the sky with purple, pink, orange and red.
For those who had just arrived on Tahiti from Moorea and were awaiting their flight home the next morning, this view was particularly heartwarming.
Once you’ve soaked in the sunset, you should skip the resort restaurant (and its inflated prices). Instead, exit the lobby, hang a left and walk a tenth of a mile to see a handful of food trucks on the left. Starting at 6pm each evening, these Tahitian food trucks emerge serving fresh fish, both cooked and in the raw as poisson cru. The fact that some of Tahiti’s best trucks are within walking distance of this property is yet another major reason to stay here. (For more on what to order from a Tahitian food truck, check our my guide here.)
I arrived with my wife via taxi from the Aremiti ferry dock in Papeete at roughly 3:30pm. (For more on maximizing cost savings by using Tahiti’s ferry system, I’ve created a guide here.) A bit down from leaving paradise, our spirits were lifted when entering the spacious, towering lobby and being greeted with a welcome juice.
The lobby wasn’t too busy at the time, and three multilingual attendants were on hand to check people in, dole out beach towels and address other questions. I was asked for both of our passports and a credit card for incidentals, and was walked through the process of getting towels for the pool.
Painless and pleasant, we headed down the open-air hallway toward our room, soaking in the incredible greenery and landscaping that added to the property’s allure. The timing of our stay (November) made everything more beautiful, as flowers of all colors were in full bloom.
It’s worth noting that while no room upgrade was offered, I didn’t inquire about one. I was more interested in finding a place to drop my bags in order to maximize pool time with the 90 remaining minutes of daylight I had.
A word of caution: Be careful booking rooms here based on photos. During check-in, a fellow traveler was outright livid with the view from her room (or lack of a view), insisting that photos she saw on the property’s website did not align with the room she was placed in. The attendant calmly explained that she was indeed in the exact room type that she booked. We were on our way before it was resolved, but it served as a good reminder to call or email the resort if there’s any confusion about what views are associated with the room type you’re planning to book. And, also, to never yell at hotel staff. We’re better than that, humanity.
Our garden-view suite was on the ground floor, though you can reserve a room on a higher floor as well as a room peering out over the infinity pool and into the sunset. We chose to save money on the view and experience the sunset while actually in the pool, and I’d encourage those only staying for a night to do likewise. Once it’s dark, that ocean-view room offers the same view as my cheaper garden-view room: the backdrop of night.
Manava doesn’t take lightly the use of the word “suites” in the property’s name. Our base-level room was positively gigantic, featuring a king bed in its own room, a bathtub, shower (with rainfall head), separate toilet, a work desk, kitchenette (replete with a stove, microwave and a knife big enough to cut open a pineapple from the nearby market), living room and an outdoor patio.
I still can’t figure out who would book what is essentially an elaborate airport hotel to set up shop long enough to cook meals, but evidently it’s useful to some.
We found our room spotless and very Tahitian-themed, from the woodwork in the bathroom to the motif of the living-room furniture.
There was something of an odor, likely a cleaning supply that didn’t agree with me, when we first arrived. That said, a few open windows cured that in a couple of hours.
Food and Beverage
The resort is home to three restaurants and bars, but you can be sure you’ll be paying elevated prices. While the swim-up bar at the world’s most epic infinity pool may be worth the splurge, dinner likely isn’t.
Instead, I’d again encourage those overnighting here to take a five-minute walk down the street and enjoy one (or more!) of the local food trucks. Tahitian food trucks are the stuff of legend, and this property happens to be quite close to several. My wife and I found that watching sunset in the pool, followed by dinner and dessert at a local food truck, was the ideal way to wrap up our trip to French Polynesia.
There’s not much here in the way of family activities, but there is an on-site Avis representative for those who’d like to rent a car and explore, as well as a concierge to book off-property excursions.
Truthfully, you’re better off making your way over to Moorea or one of French Polynesia’s other islands (you can catch my guide to visiting Moorea on the cheap via ferry here), but it’s good to know options exist in case weather or irregular operations at the airport turn your overnight stay into a two-night ordeal.
The amenity that everyone comes for is the pool. At check-in, we were given a red card that we could exchange for a beach towel. Do so immediately, then head to the back of the property, where it runs into the ocean, find a lounger and enjoy.
The infinity pool and nearby snorkeling area were sights to behold, and Manava had recently built two additional beach platforms where guests could spread out, enjoy a drink and soak in one last sunset before heading home.
While there’s no charge, per se, to visit the pool, you’ll be dinged with a 1,500-French Pacific-franc ($15) “resort fee” during checkout. Best I could tell, that was a pool towel and sunset tax. As much as I loathe resort fees, the pool and sunset at this place may actually have been worth that.
If you’ve been putting off digital correspondence while in Moorea, Bora Bora or elsewhere in French Polynesia due to a lackluster internet connection, you’ll be pleased to know that Manava’s included Wi-Fi was comparably speedy.
An added bonus was that the Wi-Fi signal stretched all the way out to the beach viewing platforms, enabling instantaneous Instagram bragging.
I suspect that a stay at the Manava Suite Resort Tahiti would grow tiring after a couple of days, as there’s not much to do in the surrounding (industrial) area. That said, it was the ideal one-night stand before a connecting flight out of PPT, with an infinity pool and a sunset behind Moorea that you’ll never forget. Being walkable to several of Tahiti’s famous food trucks is a welcome bonus, as is the relatively short commute to the airport.
There’s no denying the fact that rooms here are on the expensive side for an airport hotel, and the lack of a shuttle layered with a $15 “resort fee” don’t help matters. Still, the spacious, comfortable rooms and gorgeous grounds can compensate if you’re just here for 24 hours.